Product Review: The Veggie Mold

reshaping your edibles

I’ll be honest, when I first saw this product I thought it was a cute idea, but not something I would have any use for. Perhaps it is my restaurant background, but if I want a garnish I know plenty of ways to make one.

Then I had a grandson.

So when I was asked to review The Veggie Mold, I jumped at the chance. It is too early to try it outside yet, but I wanted to share what I think so far. I’ll post again later in the season when the garden is in full swing.

I find it easy to open and close, very easy. It’s durable plastic and will likely last many years. And I’m thinking my grandson and I are going to get a big kick out of it.

According to the literature provided, a cucumber can fill the mold in less than a week. It can be used on tomatoes as well as a whole lot of other veggies too. What fun it will be to choose what to use the molds on together, and then have him back to see, and eat, the results.

This is more than a cute garnish maker, it’s a gardener’s toy and I bet a great way to get kids to eat more veggies.

After all, who doesn’t secretly love playing with their food?

For more information check out their website The Veggie Mold and enjoy some of the pictures. The one of the kids is my favorite!

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Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things

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The Micro Tom Tomato, part 1

tiniest tomato

This first generation cherry type hybrid tomato from the University of Florida is considered to the the world’s smallest tomato plant, growing only 6-8″.

It produces itty bitty 1 ounce fruit in about 3 months, and is perfect for a container or hanging basket. It grows well indoors if given enough sunlight, and can provide tomatoes year round. They may be small, but it is the flavor we miss the most in the winter, so decided to give this variety a whirl.

It germinated in 7 days, and even now 4 weeks later it stands at only 1 1/2″ high. We expect to start getting fruit sometime in late April. If the tiny tomatoes are as good as they say, we may start another plant in June for the fall.

Botanical name: Solanum lycopersicon esculentum
Height: 6-8″
DTG: 5-7
DTM: 88
Suitable for containers: yes

Seed sources:
Reimer Seeds
Totally Tomatoes
(Non-sponsored links for your convenience.)

Categories: Tomatoes, Tomatillos & Ground Cherries

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Gardening in a Strange New World

Butterfly weed and Cucamelons

For those of us who remember life before personal computers, when your phone was attached to the wall and there were only a handful of TV stations and they actually signed off at night, social media is a very strange thing.

Almost Sci-fi.

The fact that you are reading this, likely many miles away, would have been thought impossible not all that long ago. Yet we see it as a part of our everyday life now, and it has had a great impact. For us, it is pretty positive.

We have been able to make equaintances, fellow gardening enthusiasts, from all over the world.

And so it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek that the Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous came about. Recently, it topped 10,000 members and is growing strong.

It’s a well monitored group that does not allow drama, negativity, or anything but helpfulness, pats on shoulders, and support. It’s a support group made up of enablers to be honest.

It is also a lot of gardeners with very big hearts, that do group projects. For many of us, who do not have someone that shares our addiction to gardening, it allows us to work together.

Our first project was a cookbook that raises funds for a wonderful young lady with SMA, the child’s version of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Read more here.

Our second group effort is both fun and helpful to the environment. Many of the members, and their friends outside the group, are growing either milkweed to help the Monarch butterflies, and/or cucamelons aka Mexican Gherkins, just to try something new. We will be sharing pictures from all over the map, and expect it to be a lot of fun.

If you are interested in participating, here is the link:
Gardenaholics Anonymous Group Growing Event 2015

We hope to see you there!

Categories: Addiction, All About Seeds, Gardening

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Beat Those Winter Blues by Growing Some Green

Untitled

There are a number of edible plants that are easy to grow indoors, and help make the winter go by just a little faster. Here are a few we suggest:

1. Micro Tom Tomatoes are the smallest growing tomato plant, only getting to a height of about 8 inches. In just less than 3 months they will go from planting the seed to providing tiny pea sized fresh tomatoes. They can be grown on a window sill or in a hanging basket, need no pollination, and will provide you with the fresh flavor of homegrown tomatoes all year.

2. Carrots such as Short and Sassy, Caracas or Parisienne are perfect for a small pot indoors. Be sure to keep them moist until they sprout. Just seeing the fern like leaves is enough to bring a smile to your face, but tasting a fresh carrot straight from the soil can’t be beat.

3. Most varieties of leaf lettuce can be grown indoors. They have a shallow root system, so a small planter is all you need. Of course, like all these plants, be sure they have good drainage and sufficient light. Just trim off the lower leaves as you need them, and your lettuce will provide for many months.

4. Your cat can get in on the action too. Indoor cats, and all cats in winter, can use catgrass as a supplement to their diet. It aids in their digestion. Of course, it is for cats only; but it is super easy to grow and good for your pet.

5. Cucumbers indoors? Yes, if you have a large pot with a tomato cage or other support. You will need to find a hybrid labeled as parthenocarpic, which simply means that the flowers do not need bees to pollinate them. These plants are bred for greenhouses, but do well in a warm sunny room.

6. Baby watermelon plants, such as Sugar Baby, do not need as large a pot to grow as you might think. Their root systems are comparatively shallow, and their vines only grow to about 4 feet. Of course, here you will need to hand pollinate by gently rubbing a small paintbrush on the male flower and then on a female flower. It is easy to tell the difference, the females have what looks like a tiny melon behind the flower. Again, give the plant support and plenty of sun.

7. Fruit trees, such as Meyer lemons, clementines and avocados can all be grown indoors. Just tending to them as the fruit grows provides smiles. We suggest you place the pots on plant stands with wheels, so you can bring them outdoors when the weather warms. This is also the time the fruit gets the attention it needs from bees and other bugs.

8. Most herbs can easily be grown on a windowsill in the winter. Adding homegrown fresh basil or cilantro to a recipe is so much better than dried or store bought. Greek recipes benefit from a pinch of oregano, as do Indian dishes with a little fenugreek.

There are other fruits and vegetables that can be grown indoors, depending on how much light and room you have. We’re going to be trying a small grape developed for indoor growing this winter. Just experiment and have fun, that’s the most important part of growing indoors.

The winter may still be cold, but it will be spring inside.

Categories: Container Gardening, Extending the Season

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The Engagement Ring pt. 2

Read Part 1 here.

wedding day

“I’d like to ask for your daughter’s hand, well, not just her hand…” was how my future husband asked for permission to propose, which made everyone laugh and my uncles patted him on the shoulder saying “You’ll fit right in to this family.”

And so it was that in less than a year we were married. We had our problems like any couple, and life threw a lot at us; but we always stuck it out because we both knew from the day we met some 10 years before that, that it was meant to be.

Fast forward 17 years and we own a restaurant, working hard day by day and side by side. One day I happened to notice that 2 of the emeralds were missing from my ring. There was no point in even trying to find them, they were too small. I thought of my grandmother, and her great marriage but ill fated ring.

I did take it to a jeweler who refused to repair it, saying “It’s not worth it. All the remaining emeralds would have to come out because they can’t take the heat required to fix the ring.”

My heart sunk. There was no point asking another jeweler, even had they agreed I probably would not have been able to afford it.

I refused to not wear it, it was still my engagement ring after all; but it did make me a little sad to see it broken.

Then there came a day at the restaurant I was waiting on a couple I had seen a few times before. He asked about my ring, and I told him about the jeweler. “That’s because he doesn’t know how to fix it,” he said, “I do. That’s what I do, I have a shop in the city. I’ll fix it for you for free.”

Around here the city refers to New York City, and they are well known for their jewelry shops. As I took off my ring and handed it to him, one of the waitresses came over to the table. “Are you crazy? Don’t just hand him your ring like that.” she said “Some jewelers will take out the real stones and replace them with glass. Don’t just give it to him.”

Did you ever have a moment in time that everything seemed to just stop for an instant? It was in his hands, to take it back would be insulting him. And truthfully, it may have been the only chance I would have to get it fixed. So I looked him in the eyes and asked “You wouldn’t do that to me, would you?” And then his wife said “You wouldn’t do that to her, right?” Her asking made me feel a little unsure, but he of course said he would just repair it.

It was a few weeks later they came back to the restaurant and he handed me the ring. It looked beautiful, and whatever it was, it was still my ring. Of course I thanked him profusely, and bought him lunch. As they were leaving he mentioned that they were on their way to Florida. He had retired and they wouldn’t be coming back this way anymore.

Now jump ahead 20 years. All this time I don’t know whether I am wearing emeralds or glass, and truth be told, I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter.

It was right around Christmas of last year that I felt something poke my finger. And then I felt it again. When I looked, I could see one of the prongs of the ring had broken off, and there were a number of tiny cuts around my finger. That was it, now it had to come off and now it really could not be worn anymore.

This past Friday night my husband said “Go get your ring. Let’s take it to the jeweler tomorrow and get it fixed. It’s your engagement ring, you have to wear it. I know the jeweler in town, he’ll do a good job.” What a wonderful husband.

“But what if the stones are all glass?”
“Then we’ll have them replaced.”
“There’s more to it than that. If the stones are all glass, it means I trusted someone that I shouldn’t have. I don’t want to know that.”
He just smiled, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.”

There was no way around it, so yesterday morning we headed out to the jeweler’s. I relayed the story of what had happened to the ring.
It seemed to take forever as he examined it.

“So, are they emeralds or just glass?” I asked; if I had to know I wanted it to be as soon as possible.

He continued to look and turn the ring in different directions.
“Oh,” he said, “That’s glass. Yep, green glass for sure.” And looking up he continued “Definitely glass. Two pieces of glass and six emeralds.”

Trust, not misplaced at all. That New York jeweler had done all that work to repair a ring for someone he barely knew. Suddenly the ring meant even more, as if it had been infused with another kind of love. Love for a fellow human being.

“There’s one other thing,” he said, “You must work with your hands a lot. There’s a great deal of damage to this ring. Someone must have been watching over you because if that prong hadn’t broken and gotten you in here, you likely would have ended up losing all the stones. Every one of them is about ready to fall out.”

So next week, right around Valentine’s Day, I’ll be given my engagement ring for the third time. Each time it has come to mean a little bit more.

And I can’t help but wonder if my grandparents, seeing the love we have so much like their own, aren’t perhaps keeping an eye out for that ring; one of the two given out on the same day.

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses

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The Engagement Ring pt. 1

the ring

This is not a gardening post, but rather one on life; specifically, trusting others.

It was almost 40 years ago, just after Christmas, that my grandparents were celebrating their 50th. wedding anniversary with most of the family around them. Theirs was the kind of love you only read about or see in the movies, a meant-for-each-other marriage.

They never had a wedding and reception, nor was there an engagement ring, because they had eloped. The reason was that her family was poor and needed her income, and they were hoping she would marry into money. But love won out, and after they were married she returned to her home and told nobody but her closest friends. Fortunately, after a few weeks, one of those friends told her father.

He wasn’t too happy because my grandfather was just a teacher, not well paid, and my grandmother had been dating the local jeweler. But what was done was done, and 50 years, 6 kids and 30 some grandkids later at the anniversary celebration, my grandfather presented her with an engagement ring.

It was a beautiful ring he had chosen himself, with 6 emeralds surrounding a diamond and together forming the shape of a flower. Of course there was much excitement from the women, and quite a few tears of joy; especially from my grandmother.

Just a little bit later, when things were calming down, my soon to be husband reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring case. In that little case was a ring with a tiny diamond in the center, surrounded by 8 small emeralds, forming the shape of a flower.

If ever there was a good omen for a marriage, the similarity of the rings was it.

It was only a few years later during the night, as my grandmother laid in a hospital bed in a coma, that someone removed her engagement ring from her finger.

She passed a couple of days later, followed by my grandfather in less than a year. As sad as it was for all of us, everyone knew all they ever wanted was to be together.

Her ring was never recovered, and you are probably wondering why I am writing this story. That is because today I will learn the fate of my engagement ring, pictured above.

I’ll share that with you in part 2. Until then, I have my fingers crossed.

Categories: Keeping up with the Joneses

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Fresh Food Year Round – You Can Grow That!

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

The shovel helps make a path to the greenhouse.

In some regions of the country they can grow fresh food year round because the weather is well suited for it.

For the majority of us though, as you can see from the picture of our yard, it’s a challenge.
And in some areas, it is for opposite reasons- it just becomes too dang hot.

So what’s a gardener to do?

For those of you with the issues of cold, I would recommend two books:

Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour

The first was my gardening bible when we were just starting out. We dabbled in cold frames, and later in high and low tunnels, and were able to easily add at least 6 weeks and then more on to a season that is basically only 4 months long.

The second book was the kick in the pants we needed to take it even further. With the recent addition of a small greenhouse, and by using our own gardening system, we have been able to grow fresh food even longer into the season.

I must admit though as we get older, the idea of shoveling a path to the greenhouse or even going out into the cold to harvest becomes a little less appealing. So, what we are looking at primarily this winter is growing food indoors.

If you have an area that you are heating anyway, this is a great way to get fresh food throughout the winter.

We are still harvesting basil from last fall, and our cucumber, tomatoes, baby belle pepper and watermelon plants are up and soon to be transplanted.

The cucumber is a variety that does not need pollination, known as parthenocarpic. Peppers contain both the male and female close enough together, as do tomatoes and eggplant, that with just a wee bit of help they will produce fruit. The watermelon will need some hand pollination from us. We’re also trying a container variety of butternut squash.

All of these are doable things, and we will be posting throughout the experiment how things go.

In the meantime, know that snow falling or cold temps, or even the opposite of blistering heat, does not mean you must stop growing fresh food, because the truth is:

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to help others learn to grow.
Click on the link above for more.

For more info on Extending the Harvest read here.

Categories: Extending the Season, You Can Grow That!

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2 Ways to Win Free Gardening Stuff

growing tomatoes

Think Gardening!

Everyone likeS free, no strings attached stuff, right? And if it is gardening related, well… so much the better!

So here are 2 very simple ways you can increase your chances of opening some packages of free stuff:

1. Join the new Facebook group Garden Blogger #GIVEAWAYS. Bloggers holDing contests are posting those links in the group. One person has already won a copy of Plants with Benefits by Helen Yoest.
Share the group as well. As more people join, more bloggers and gardening companies will join and get involved in contests. It’s a win-win!

2. Subscribe for Free to emails by clicking this link or going to the tab above. We send out a personal email once or twice each month. We would never share your email, as if we knew how, nor bombard you with stuff as some do. You will sometimes get a head’s up on what we are working on, a garden tip, and always links to the most recent posts.
We will also post our contests in the Garden Blogger GIVEAWAYS group.

Here’s the bonus- because Facebook doesn’t always share what we post, you might miss out on something; and we want to stay in touch. So for all our subscribers we will be occasionally offering private contests through a link on YouTube. Only subscribers will get this link and be able to enter.

Of course you can easily unsubscribe at any time. It happens, but very rarely.

So let’s think thoughts of spring, and get ready to win some free cool gardening stuff!

Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses

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8 Things Every Seed Catalog Should Contain

about seed catalogs

There are a mere 12 seed catalogs in our house at the moment, after sharing and recycling the ones we no longer need. Admittedly, some never even get opened. The reason is because we know the way these catalogs are set up.

Looking through a seed catalog should be fun, not work. And although I understand the psychology of wanting the buyer to look at every page, if we can’t easily find what we want, we simply go to a catalog where we will.

So see if you, as a gardener, agree that all catalogs would be better if they contained:

1. An easy to find index.

Yes, we know the first few and last few pages of any catalog are the hot spots for selling. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother putting in an index, or just as bad bury it somewhere in the middle. It is just one page, please add it.

2. Pictures.

There’s no need to make a photo album, but give your customers something to look at. If it is a conglomeration of this year’s new items, put page numbers on the pictures so we can go look. And for heaven’s sake, label what the picture is of, specifically.

3. Growing information.

This should go without saying. Not every gardener knows that peas can be planted when the weather is cool, but that most beans can’t. One of our favorite catalogs is almost a gardener’s how-to book, it gives such good info and tips.

4. Some order.

While most catalogs are set up by category and in alphabetical order, some look like a child assembled them. Don’t stick flowers in between squash and tomatoes. Maybe it’s a little obsessive, but it is unnerving to read these catalogs, so we don’t. Colored tabs at the top of the page are lovely, and make it easy to know where the veggies end and the herbs and flowers start.

5. Botanical names.

Not everyone uses them, it is true. But there are some of us that would like to know, for example, if one squash may cross pollinate another. It also helps clear any confusion if a plant is known by many common names.

6. A ‘seed only’ shipping option.

When a company charges higher shipping rates for the more you spend, it is a disincentive to purchase. How many gardeners have deleted an item from an order, just to save on shipping? On the other hand, when a company charges one set price no matter how many seed packets you buy, the psychology then is to buy as many as you can. For companies that sell more than just seeds, consider a set fee for orders of seeds only. Take it from a long time gardener, we’ll buy more.

7. Customer bonuses.

Some companies are smart in including a free pack of seeds in every order, that’s nice and usually we give those away. When you think about it, if we wanted it we would have ordered it, right?

It’s not like “Oh shoot! Thank heavens they sent us these lettuce seeds or we would be in big trouble trying to make a salad!”

How about letting us choose from, say, 4 or 5 packs of seeds? Or give a bonus to customers who have been buying from you for a long time. It’s always good to keep your customers happy.

8. The truth.

Please include a straight forward explanation about the differences between genetically engineered, hybrid, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. You have the attention of one of the most important groups of people when it comes to this subject, please use it responsibly to help clear up the confusion.

So what say you, my fellow gardeners? What else would you like to see in a seed catalog?

Categories: All About Seeds

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Horticulture Magazine and Me

snow jan 24 2015

Hello y’all,

Blogging has blessed us in that we have been connected to many wonderful gardeners like you, whether you subscribe to our emails, follow along on assorted social media, or we have e-met on a more personal level.

It has also linked us to people involved in the gardening and publication industries. One such connection is with Horticulture Magazine. We were fortunate to win a contest to get an article published in their magazine, and from that they invited us to contribute to their online blog. How cool is that? My hands were shaking so hard I pert near dropped the phone!

After a few years we took a bit of a break while we worked on our garden system, primarily on finding ways to lower the cost of production without sacrificing quality.

They had no problem welcoming us back, and we are happy to say they have even featured our last two articles on growing Flax and Sunchokes both for their beauty and their edible components on their main page!

So if you are in gardening withdrawal from the cold, or for my friends down under it’s the heat, check out these links to get a little more green in your life.

You can find a new post there and on the Gardening Blog every week.

Color us happy, blessed, and waiting for spring…
Oh, and choose any color you want; anything is better than this snow-white!

Categories: Gardening People, Places & Things, Keeping up with the Joneses

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Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 by Gardening Jones™, and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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